Theodor Reik: Listening With The Third Ear, Part 2

In his 1982 contribution to psychoanalysis, Freud and Man’s Soul, Bruno Bettelheim describes an American psychoanalysis that has become sanforized, impersonal, and theorized beyond any semblance of human empathy. Through an ideologically-driven (and Bernaysian promoted) translation by Strachey, self-serving presentation, and overt misrepresentation of Freud’s thoughts and words, psychoanlysis had strayed far from Freud’s intentions. Possibly the most noted example of this bastardization is the English translation of “das Ich, das Über-Ich, and das Es” as the ego, superego, and id,” Latin terms that never appear in Freud’s writing.
 
In the second chapter of Listening With The Third Ear, Reik discusses how Freud came about the “discovery” (we might consider it less of a discovery and more of a model or system) of psychoanalysis, and how the method Freud used came to shape the system that he established. Reik also shows us that the intimate nature of this method of exploration, namely self-analysis, is necessarily personal –and must remain personal once the analysis is turned towards objects.
 
Reik describes self-analysis as a requisite for anyone who intends to use psychoanalysis as a tool for modeling self understanding. Examples from Freud’s own self-analysis run throughout his own works, disguised as case studies from his examination room. In fact, a good number of the vignettes and examples which Freud wrote on are more likely to be from his own self-analysis.
 
Reik points out the necessary distinction between undergoing analysis and undergoing self-analysis. The latter is, essentially, a more personal, convoluted, and difficult endeavor. However, Reik suggests, it is a required experience which makes analysis a more personal act.
 
“Psychoanalysts have not observed that psychoanalysis has, so to speak, two branches. One is the research into the symptomatology and etiology of neurosis, of hysteria, phobia, compulsion neurosis, and so forth. The other is the psychology of dreams; of the little mistakes of everyday life such as forgetting, slips of the tongue, and so forth; of wit and of superstitions -including all that Freud called metapsychology”
 
Reik describes here something that is essential in considering contemporary criticism of Freud’s theories. In fact, most of the criticisms are leveled, from within and outside of psychoanalysis, at the former branch that Reik speaks of, namely the etiology of neurosis. Amongst therapists of most schools of thought, the defense mechanisms which Freud described are typically acknowledged, to some degree or another. Even when disputed they often resurface under new management and dressed in new nomenclature.
 
A Jungian psychologist at The New School, with whom I studied Jungian analysis, once lectured that “we choose to do in life that which we feel least competent in doing.” This seems to be the lesson that Reik offers us from Freud. The necessarily personal aspect of psychoanalytic psychology is essential in the analysis of culture, people, or art. Our own active engagement with the phenomenon and our willingness to come out from behind the bulwark of “objectivity”.


Theodor Reik: "Listening With The Third Ear" Part 1

Photograph by G. Paul Bishop
Sigmund Freud’s first generation of psychoanalysts, many of whom were European expatriates to the United States, are all but forgotten in American, undergraduate, psychology programs. A few names, mentioned exclusively in a theories of personality or history of psychology course are presented largely as historical figures. These early dynamic psychologists include Carl Jung, Karen Horney, Erich Fromm, Erik Erikson, and Anna Freud. As academic personality theory becomes increasingly dominated by quantitative trait theories, and experimentally focused psychologists choose to purge qualitative and non-experimental thought from their students’ coursework, these psychoanalysts are becoming quickly forgotten. Even in undergraduate counseling programs, thoughts beyond the aforementioned theorists are rarely known beyond a footnote.
Amongst those psychodynamic psychologists who are becoming forgotten by the American college is the Austrian-American psychologist Dr. Theodor Reik.
Reik was born in Vienna in 1888 and is known as the first psychoanalyst to be trained as an academic rather than as a physician. His doctoral dissertation, defended at the University of Vienna in 1912, was the first to deal with psychoanalytic concepts. Although Reik was championed and even financially supported by his teacher, Sigmund Freud, he was not accepted into the medically dominated, American psychoanalytic community in New York. Many of the psychoanalysts, who avoided the horrors of mid-Twentieth Century Europe, made New York City their home in the 1930s and 1940s. At this time Greenwich Village became the geographical and intellectual center of psychoanalysis in America. Artists, academics, and intellectuals were enchanted by the new science which became the single most influential theory of art, literature, and life during the 20th Century.
Theodor Reik worked to fulfill Sigmund Freud’s desire to separate psychoanalysis from medicine, making it a science, art, and profession on its own terms -distinct from medical psychiatry.  Reik, who trained in the academic rather than the medical tradition, made this his primary work. In 1948 Reik founded the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis in Greenwich Village, the oldest school for psychoanalysis in America. Some of Reik’s most important contributions to psychoanalysis remains his work towards the expansion of non-medical psychoanalysis. Through Reik’s work it became possible for doctors trained in the Ph.D. tradition to practice psychoanalysis, ending the half-century gatekeeping by medical doctors.
Listening With The Third Ear
I first became aware of Theodor Reik’s work through David Shapiro,  with whom I studied psychopathology during my graduate work at The New School for Social Research. Listening With The Third Ear (1948) opened my eyes to a deeply intellectual psychoanalysis that did not lose sight of individual, human, practice. Listening With The Third Ear also served as a bridge to the work of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, whom, as many scholars have noted, shared with Reik an interest in a feminist expansion of psychodynamic psychology.
Introduction & Chapter 1: How Does a Man Become Interested in Psychology?
“My book investigates the unconscious processes of the psychoanalyst himself; it shows the other side of the coin. It is an attempt -so far as I know, the first- to describe what an investigator into the unconscious mental processes of another person does and what he achieves.” Reik is attempting to describe the psychoanalyst’s unconscious processes in the act of psychoanalysis.
Reik begins by exploring the question of what psychology is. Experience is necessarily a participatory phenomenon. In this way, Reik points out that objective, quantitative research is not psychology. To be a psychology, Reik proposes, a theory must begin with the phenomenon of the self. “William James has described the puzzling phenomenon of self-observation in the words ‘The I observes the me.’ It is obvious that the precondition for such a phenomenon  -observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes- must be a split within the ego. This split makes psychology possible.” Reik continues, “your own psychical processes are inappropriate material for statistics, curves, graphs, tables, tests, and schedules.”
The question of the birth of self (ego) is understood by Reik not as the moment of visual self-recognition in the Lacanian mirror phase, but rather as a moment when the child shifts from selfishness to self-consciousness. Reik proposes that self-consciousness is reflection from the thou; mother, father, and caretaker. “Stated otherwise, the I can observe the me because They -She or He- once observed the Me… Self observation thus originates in the awareness of being observed.”
Reik insists that self-observation is not a primary function, but rather an acquired phenomenon through social interaction. Self-consciousness is a social phenomenon. Reik is struck by the lack of interest that most psychologists have in the phenomenon of the self. Reik might be the first psychoanalytic psychologist to confront the difficulties of integrating psychoanalysis with academic psychology.
For Reik the necessary moment of self-consciousness is not the reflection of a mirror, but rather the critical glance of contempt from an other.
“By primitive observation the child learns early in life to interpret the reactions of his parents or nurses as expressions of approval or disapproval, of pleasure or annoyance. Being observed and later on observing oneself will never lose its connection with this feeling this feeling of criticism. Psychology teaches again and again that self-observation leads to self-criticism, and we have all had opportunity to re-examine this experience. This self-criticism continues the critical attitude of the mother, father, or nurse. They are incorporated into the self -become introjected.”
Introjection is the process by which the child’s society (mother and father) are infused into the child’s sense of self (self-consciousness). This places the conscious phenomenon of “me” not in the ego but rather in the superego, the integrated, often critical, aspect of the self that is an introjection of the mother and the father. “The ego is primarily an organ of perception directed toward the outside world. It is unable to observe the self. The superego is the first representative of the inner world.”
In the first chapter of Listening With The Third Ear Reik offers a reconsideration of the experience of the self, a distinction between the psychic self that observes external object (ego) versus the self-conscious aspect of the psyche which is the superego. The superego is not merely the introjection of society into the self, but the seat of self-conscious, awareness of the me.
 
New School for Social Research “The Legacies of Theodor Reik” Seminar

The Ego & The Id & Caesar & Me (Part 1)

In 1923 Sigmund Freud formalized his theory of the dynamics of the self. Forty-one years later we find much of the book illustrated in a half-hour episode of The Twilight Zone. 
In the opening chapter of Sigmund Freud’s 1923 text, Das Ich und das Es, we find a statement that prefigures contemporary theories of consciousness.

“…psycho-analysis cannot situate the essence of the psychical in consciousness, but is obliged to regard consciousness as a quality of the psychical, which may be present in addition to other qualities or may be absent.”

What Freud is reiterating in this opening paragraph is the idea that consciousness is a mental process that precedes any talk of reality as such. This statement, which Freud calls “the first shibboleth of psycho-analysis,” is at the center of contemporary neuroscientific theories of consciousness. The shibboleth that Freud speak of in 1923 is the questioning of the assumptions of objectivity itself; a question that leads to an unraveling of the Enlightenment assumption of a subject perceiving an object.
 
Freud continues,

“To most people who have been educated in philosophy the idea of anything psychical which is not also conscious is so inconceivable that it seems to them absurd and refutable simply by logic. I believe this is not only because they have never studied the relevant phenomenon of hypnosis and dreams, which–quite apart from pathological manifestations–necessitate this view.” (Pg. 3)

What we find here is a critique that applies directly to any theory of mind that assumes objective reality outside of our conscious experience. We see a direct attack of objective theory which suggests that a world is independent of the mind’s production of consciousness. This is central to the psychodynamic proposition of the structure of the self, which Freud fully develops for the first time in this text. It is also a critique of much of the research that continues to be taught in the social sciences, namely that objectivity is somehow parsable from subjectivity; the endeavor of positivistic empiricism. The proof of Freud’s thesis is shown by examples from the dream life and hypnosis, which constitute a psychical production of reality. Cognitive neuroscience calls this  top-down processing.

In the English translation (The Ego and the Id, 1925) we find a model that allows us to consider conscious experience of not only the world and others, but also of ourselves. But we must keep in mind that this theory is one which proposes that reality is a participatory act of the mind, one that is also found in the later writing of Wilhelm Wundt through his concept of voluntaristic apperception.

Freud proposes four systems that interact dynamically to produce the phenomenon of the self. These four entities are all aspects of the psyche as a whole and interact dynamically (psycho-dynamic). We experience these four systems (the external world, the ego, the id, and the super-ego) as a unity, what we call our self.

The 1964 Twilight Zone episode, Caesar and Me provides us with an illustration of much of what is proposed by Freud in  The Ego and the Id. Written by Adele T. Strassfield, Caesar and Me would be the only episode of The Twilight Zone to be written by a woman.

Caesar and Me is the story of a ne’er-do-well ventriloquist named Jonathan West (Jackie Cooper) who is arrested after turning to a life of crime. The story unfolds as West’s ventriloquist dummy, Caesar, comes to life and talks West into committing crimes. At the end of the drama we find Caesar talking a young girl named Susan (Morgan Brittany) into murdering her aunt.

Ostensibly we have the paranormal story of a ventriloquist’s doll coming to life and convincing his owner to commit self-destructive crimes. However, if we consider the characters and the story in the context of Freud’s Ego and the Id, we find a working illustration of the dynamics of the soul.

There are four characters, each playing a unique role in the drama: West (the ventriloquist), Caesar (the dummy), Susan (the niece of the West’s landlady), and Mrs. Cudahy (West’s landlady). Each of these characters correspond to one of the four systems that Freud describes. We are told the story from West’s point of view, we experience reality, as West does, as something outside of himself. However, if we view the drama as West’s projection, that is, as each character embodying an aspect of West’s psyche, we come to see that the episode is a meta-psychology of West himself. In other words, each player of the drama is a part of West, a part which is projected into a conscious awareness of reality.

Let us consider the four systems in this way. In West we find illustrated Freud’s concept of Ego (Ich). Caesar is the manifestation of id (das Es). Susan embodies super-ego (Über-Ich, also called the ego ideal). Finally, Mrs. Cudahy, along with the police, and the nightclub owners, serve as West’s perceptual conscious, that is, the external world that functions on the reality principle.

I Consciousness and What is Unconscious
In the opening scene we find Jonathan West selling a family heirloom watch at a Goldstein’s pawn shop. Goldstein assures a defeated West that “things will get better”. As West is leaving the shop, Goldstein motions to West’s ventriloquist case, offering him $25 for his dummy. “Oh no,” responds West, “No thank you, no. He is not for sale.”

In this opening scene it is established that West and Caesar are inseparable. Closer even than the memory of West’s own grandfather (represented by his watch) West views Caesar as part of himself, something that is “not for sale”.

This exchange illustrates at least two things from the first chapter of The Ego and the Id. Firstly, we understand that ego and id are fused, that the id is more valuable to the ego than any material object or family tie. Secondly, we are shown an act of repression in service of the id. West transfers his family history from conscious to unconscious in the act of pawning his grandfather’s watch. We are told that this repression is not permanent, that he will have thirty days to get his watch back. What we find here is the ego repressing something from conscious awareness (West’s hands) to the unconscious (his watch disappears into his well-guarded unconscious–the shop keeper’s storeroom).

Freud illustrates that through repression the ego transfers awareness from conscious to unconscious. We must remember that this is not something that exists outside of the psyche, conscious and unconscious are systematic states produced by the psyche. This is illustrated by the fact that we are at once watching the story of Jonathan West’s psyche from the eyes of Jonathan West. In this way, the episode is a kind of meta-cognition of the experience of the self. Freud tells us:

“There is a coherent organization of mental processes; and we call this his ego. It is to this ego that consciousness is attached; the ego controls the approaches to motility–that is, to the discharge of excitations into the external world; it is the mental agency which supervises all its own constituent processes, and which goes to sleep at night, though even then it exercises the censorship on dreams. From this ego proceed the repressions, too, by means of which it is sought to exclude certain trends in the mind not merely from consciousness but also from other forms of effectiveness and activity.” (Pg. 8)

What we see here is that the ego (the “I”) is the manager of all aspects of the psyche. It serves as perceptual conscious of the world and others, and the realistic pressures of those objects (functions on the reality principle), but is also partially unconscious. That is to say, the ego is somewhat hidden from itself. In Freud’s words:

“We have come upon something in the ego itself which is also unconscious, which behaves exactly like the repressed–that is, which produces powerful effects without itself being conscious and which requires special work before it can be made conscious.” (Pg. 9)

Freud goes on to say that the neurosis arises from a conflict between the coherent ego and the aspect of itself that it has repressed. We find here that the act of West repressing his conscious memory of his family might be at the root of the psychic drama that is about to unfold. We must note here that Freud clearly states that the ego is partly unconscious.

The Ego & The Id & Caesar & Me (Part 2)

In 1923 Sigmund Freud formalized his theory of the dynamics of the self. Forty-one years later we find much of the book illustrated in a half-hour episode of The Twilight Zone. 


Fig. 1, The only figure to appear in The Ego and the Id.
Absent is the depiction of the super-ego.

II The Ego and the Id
In chapter two of The Ego and the Id, Freud describes the nature and dynamics of the ego and the id. In the opening sentence Freud announces a shift in his theoretical focus from repression to the ego. The question we are confronted with is: How is it possible to know the unconscious–how do we become conscious of the unconscious?

Freud makes a point to reiterate that ego is both conscious and unconscious, a quality that, in today’s classroom, is often only ascribed to the super-ego. The ego is said to be the first system that is reached by the outside world. The conscious ego receives all sensations from the external world (Freud calls these sense-perceptions) and from the internal sensations and feelings. But there is one other aspect of the internal world that we must consider; namely thoughts. Freud asks, “How does a thing become preconscious? …Through becoming connected with the presentations corresponding to it.”

Thoughts are language, and Freud describes language as that which makes a thought conscious. Thoughts that do not have a word-presentation remain unconscious (Ucs.), whereas thoughts, “through becoming connected with the word-presentation corresponding to it” becomes preconscious. The preconscious (Pcs.) that Freud describes here is much like what cognitive psychologist today call the short-term-memory.

Freud describes that “only something that has once been a Cs. perception can become conscious, and that anything arising from within the psyche (apart from feelings) that seeks to become conscious must try to transform itself into external perceptions…by means of memory-traces.” What Freud is describing here is how a thought or memory that we do not have a word to describe is projected onto the outside world (cathexis) without our conscious awareness of it. He makes a clear distinction here that a memory is something we are consciously aware is not a perception, whereas a hallucination is a perceptual cathexis of the unconscious that we experience as something in the outside world, but is actually from our unconscious.

In Caesar and Me we find this interplay between conscious, preconscious, and unconscious as illustrated by the id (Caesar), the ego (West), and the super-ego (Susan) passing in and out of West’s room. The door that separates the boarding house lobby from West’s room is a boundary between the conscious and the unconscious -a psychic muscle that is controlled by the ego (West holds the key). We find that most of the dialogue that takes place between West, Caesar, and Susan is in West’s room–it is taking place unconsciously. In fact, we will notice that West only hears Caesar while in this room, or from within Caesar’s trunk.

Freud emphasizes the distinction between linguistic and iconic thinking. “Thinking in pictures,” he writes, “is…only a very incomplete form of becoming conscious. In some way, too, it stands nearer to unconscious processes than does thinking in words, and it is unquestionably older than the latter both ontogenetically and phylogenetically.” What Freud is telling us here is that visual thinking is more primal, both to personal history and to the history of our species.

These early, visual, memories are largely unconscious and find conscious expression through cathexis, that is, by fusing with some word-image of the conscious. In other words, what is unconscious within us finds conscious expression in our perception of reality.

James Strachey points out in a footnote (Pg. 17) that Friedrich Nietzsche used the term id (das Es) to signify “whatever in our nature is impersonal and, so to speak, subject to natural law.” Freud credits his discussion of the id to George Groddeck. The remainder of chapter two describes the characteristics and dynamics of this system.

Just as we only hear Caesar speak from within West’s room, the id functions unconsciously. The id speaks through cathexis, that is, though fusing thought with some external perception -usually through dreams, hallucinations, or symptoms. When West is alone in his room, he and Caesar speak within the unconscious. The fact that West and Caesar only speak in the unconscious makes it apparent that the ego also functions somewhat unconsciously. We will see that it is only when reality intrudes into the unconscious, in the final scene of the drama, that Caesar no longer speaks to West. The unconscious has been made conscious.

There is an important distinction to be made between Jonathan West speaking for Caesar, and Caesar speaking for Jonathan West. When in conscious reality, that is, outside of the room, Caesar only speaks as an agent of Jonathan West. It is not until West and Caesar (the ego and the id) are in West’s room (the unconscious) that Caesar is heard speaking for himself.

In figure 1, the only figure we find in The Ego and the Id, Freud illustrates the following:

“We might add, perhaps, that the ego is that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world through the medium of the Pcpt.-Cs.; in a sense it is an extension of the surface-differentiation. Moreover, the ego seeks to bring the influence of the external world to bear upon the id and its tendencies, and endeavors to substitute the reality principle for the pleasure principle which reigns unrestrictedly in the id. For the ego, perception plays the part which in the id falls to instinct. The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions.” (Pg. 18)

The characteristics of the ego and the id which Freud describe here are evident in both West and Caesar. West, in a continual state of negotiation with the demanding and desiring Caesar exemplifies the dynamic that Freud describes between the ego and the id. Freud adds:

“The functional importance of the ego is manifested in the fact that normally control over the approaches of motility devolves upon it. Thus in its relation to the id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength while the ego uses borrowed forces. The analogy may be carried a little further. Often a rider, if he is not to be parted from his horse, is obliged to guide it where it wants to go, so in the same way the ego is in the habit of transforming the id’s will into action as if it were its own.” (Pg. 19)

Caesar & The Ego & Me & The Id (Part 3)

In 1923 Sigmund Freud formalized his theory of the dynamics of the self. Forty-one years later we find much of the book illustrated in a half-hour episode of The Twilight Zone.

Susan as the super-ego.

III The Ego and the Super-Ego (Ego Ideal)
Jonathan and Caesar do not make the story. The drama can only unfold when there are outside pressures, reality, which intrude upon Jonathan and Caesar. The subject of our story is not Jonathan, but rather, Caesar. Jonathan West himself only emerges as a character from the presence of outside forces.

Freud describes how the ego emerges from the id as a result of tensions on the id from the outside world. We can see this in the newborn infant, who is little more than a bundle of biological drives with a perceptual system (the five senses). Through the intrusion of others, the infant begins to develop a sense of self; ego. The ego emerges from the id as a circumstance of the demands from the outside world. The initial point of contact is directly between the outside world, the perceptual system, and id. From this initial contact emerges ego; a sense of self.

Susan embodies the super-ego (also called the ego ideal). Shooting poison darts, she is, from the beginning, a tormentor, tyrant, and dictator to Jonathan. We find here a resentful young girl who berates and chastises Jonathan for all of his shortcomings. “Want to bet you didn’t get a job?” she taunts Jonathan. Her hostility and antagonism are the hallmarks of the authoritarian demands of the self-righteous.

These are the characteristics of the super-ego, that part of our self that repeats the demands of the overbearing, controlling parent, police, political, and social system. In Freud’s description it demands, “You ought to be like this (like your father). It also comprises the prohibition: ‘You may not be like this (like your father)–that is, you may not do all that he does; some things are his prerogative” (Pg. 30). Freud continues,

“The super-ego retains the character of the father, while the more powerful the Oedipal complex was and the more rapidly it succumbed to repression (under the influence of authority, religious teaching, schooling and reading), the stricter will be the domination of the super-ego over the ego later on–in the form of conscience or perhaps of an unconscious guilt.” (Pg. 30)

But Susan is more than a mere high-minded pest. Jonathan seems hardy in his ability to brush off Susan’s reproaches (in one scene he actually reprimands her). But there she is something more than a vehement child, she is a window into an aspect of Jonathan’s psyche. Susan is a glimpse of West’s experience of his parents and the residue of his childhood. She personifies the wellspring of reproaches that Jonathan will make against himself–the source of his depression and impotence.

Freud details how the super-ego manifests from the ego and the id through the Oedipal imbroglio that is experienced in early childhood. We find a clue to Jonathan’s childhood Oedipal conflict in the first conversation he has with Caesar.

Jonathan: “You just sit right here and relax and I’ll fix us some dinner! A fella deserves something in his stomach at the end of a tough day, huh? Now, this ought to do it, I’ll warm up some of that fine potato soup I made for you. And don’t you worry, we’re gonna get a bookin’ any day now, you and me. We’re gonna be headliners! Just like you and that other fella used to be…only I won’t skip out on you like he did. No sir. The shame of it all. Abandoning you for some woman. No sir. It’s gonna be you and me pal; together forever!”

West talks with his id.

What we find here is Jonathan having a conversation with himself. He is speaks to himself as a parent speaks to a child. What is important in this conversation is that Jonathan expresses a loss. At some point in his life someone (presumably a parent) betrayed him, “skipped out on him,” as he puts it. This loss (experienced as a betrayal) exhibits the experience of the little child who, when coming to terms with the simultaneous need to be the absolute meaning of one parent’s existence, and the fear of abandonment and punishment from the other parent; illustrates the Oedipal situation. Freud claims that the super-ego develops as a psychic internalization of a love object that is lost.

We can’t conjecture who Jonathan’s lost love object was, but we can suppose that Jonathan’s impotence is somehow rooted in this early loss. Freud tells us, “…an object which was lost has been set up again inside the ego–that is, that an object-cathexis has been replaced by an identification.” Freud goes on to describe how the super-ego serves as the foundation for our friendships, how we form social bonds with others based on our identification with others who share our experience of conscience (morality).

West and his landlady, Mrs. Cudahy.

“It is easy to show that the ego ideal answers to everything that is expected of the higher nature of man. As a substitute for a longing for the father, it contains the germ from which all religions have evolved. The self-judgment which declares the ego falls short of its ideal produces the religious sense of humility to which the believer appeals in his longing. As a child grows up, the role of father is carried on by teachers and others in authority; their injunctions and prohibitions remain powerful in the ego ideal and continue, in the form of conscience, to exercise the moral censorship. The tension between the demands of conscience and the actual performances of the ego is experienced as a sense of guilt. Social feeling rest on identifications with other people, on the basis of having the same ego-ideal.” (Pg.33)

The closest hint of a social bond that Jonathan West experiences is with Mrs. Cudahy, whom we assume shares familial history similar to West’s (her last name indicates that she is of the same Irish ancestry as West). This social bond is frustrated by West who, by all accounts, is not only friendless but asexual, an issue Freud takes up next.

Caesar & The Id & The Ego & Me (Part 4)

In 1923 Sigmund Freud formalized his theory of the dynamics of the self. Forty-one years later we find much of the book illustrated in a half-hour episode of The Twilight Zone.
 
IV The Two Classes of Instincts
Freud tells us that two impulses are predisposed at birth: a drive towards life and an drive towards death. The event of birth is something endured, not something invited. Freud claims that humans  yearn to “re-establish a state of things that was disturbed by the emergence of life.” Here we find Freud describing the idea of the death-drive, the opposition of Eros, the life-drive.* Eros had been the lone drive in Freud’s theory, a bifurcation of the desire for sexual objects and the desire for self-preservation.
We find that the life-drive and the death-drive are not merely in opposition, but are also fused and complimentary. Freud tells us that “…a special physiological process (of anabolism or catabolism) would be associated with each of the two classes of instincts; both kinds of instinct would be active in every particle of living substance…” Freud describes the death-drive as a necessary part of the organism protecting itself “against the external world,” in other words it is “alloyed with” the life-drive.
An instance of this fusing can be found in the “sadistic component of the sexual instinct… and the sadism which has made itself independent as a perversion [that] would be typical of a defusion…” This fusion and defusion between the life and death instincts, Freud surmises, is not only the core of sexual sadism, but also the impulse for the “fundamental phenomenon” of ambivalence -our simultaneous feelings of desire and disgust, often experienced as the simultaneous desire to be both protected and independent -“the polarity of love and hate”. Freud characterizes this:

“There is no difficulty in finding a representative of Eros; but we must be grateful that we can find a representative of the elusive death instinct in the instinct of destruction, to which hate points the way. Now, clinical observation shows not only that love is with unexpected regularity accompanied by hate (ambivalence), and not only that in human relationships hate is frequently a forerunner of love, but also that in a number of circumstances hate changes into love and love into hate.” (Pg.41)

In Jonathan West we find curiously little evidence of either a life-drive or a death-drive. His words and actions with others are empty placeholders, temporary acts that fend-off and forestall the intrusion of reality. This is most obvious when we see West auditioning for a ventriloquist job. His act is unconvincing, dispirited, and impotent. The same is true with his interactions with other objects of reality, including Mrs. Cudahy; West is repeatedly inert to his landlady’s overtures of nurturing and love. We get the feeling that West is somehow unable to respond to her willingness for affection. The only emotional investment we find in West is within himself.

Freud describes how the erotic libido (the sex drive) can be transformed into ego-libido (self-preservation drive), which serves to de-sexualize the libidinal energy. Freud describes this de-sexualization of the libido as a way of dealing with the loss of a love object, particularly a forbidden love object, such as the cultural restricions of a homosexual love object-cathexis. Freud tells us,

“By thus getting hold of the libido from the object-cathexis, setting itself up as sole love-object, and desexualizing or sublimating the libido of the id, the ego is working in opposition to the purposes of Eros and placing itself at the service of the opposing instinctual impulses.” (Pg. 45)

This, of course, is illustrated by Jonathan West’s narcissism. His only investment of libidinal energy is with himself, that is, with Caesar and Susan. In an attempt to deal with some object-loss in reality, West has redirected his erotic libido onto himself, which leaves nothing for the external world. Freud tells is, “The narcissism of the ego is thus a secondary one, which has been withdrawn from objects.”

It is important to note that Freud does not point to homosexual object desire as the cause of this neurotic way of dealing with the world. This illustration clearly shows that it is the forbidden status of that homoerotic desire that the ego reacts to. In other words, it is the social imposition against the desire, rather than the desire itself, that results in the shift from love of the object to disgust. Freud illustrates this economic redirection of the drives with a joke. “Such behavior on the part of the unconscious reminds one of the comic story of the three village tailors, one of whom had to be hanged because the only village blacksmith had committed a capital offence.”

We find Caesar, in playing the role of id, driven by the pleasure principle. His demands are life-preserving, an attempt to counterbalance the narcissistic deflation of the ego. We see that without Caesar’s prodding, West would be little more than a living corpse. Freud tells us that this relationship is “illustrated in Fechner’s principle of constancy… [it] governs life, which thus consists of a continuous descent towards death, it is the claims of Eros, of the sexual instincts, which in the form of instinctual needs, hold up the falling level and introduce fresh tensions.” Here we can see that far from being merely destructive, Caesar is the one force that is keeping Jonathan from death.

Freud concludes the penultimate chapter of the book with a description of how the ego and id corroborate in a maintaining the life-drive. Through this description of the id’s drive towards pleasure, we can understand how Caesar, far from being a mere destructive force in West, is also a life-sustaining function that keeps West alive.

“This accounts for the likeness of the condition that follows complete sexual satisfaction to dying, and for the fact that death coincides with the act of copulation in some of the loser animals. These creature die in the act of reproduction because, after Eros had been eliminated through the process of satisfaction, the death instinct has a free hand for accomplishing its purpose. Finally, as we have seen, the ego, by sublimating some of the libido for itself and its purposes, assists the id in its work of mastering the tensions.” (Pg. 47)

 
*Freud uses the German Triebarten where James Strachey chose Instincts. Triebarten is similar to the English word modes, and refers to what we today call drives.

Me & Caesar & The Id & The Ego (Part 5)

In 1923 Sigmund Freud formalized his theory of the dynamics of the self. Forty-one years later we find much of the book illustrated in a half-hour episode of The Twilight Zone.

V The Dependent Relationships of the Ego
Whereas much of the first four chapters of The Ego and the Id describe the origins, development, and nature of the systems of the psyche, this final chapter deals with the dynamics of those systems; how they act and interact.

Freud begins the final chapter by summarizing what has been explored in the previous four chapters, namely how the ego and super-ego emerge from the id as identifications with lost love objects (abandoned cathexes). Freud tells us that the development of these three systems of the psyche not only mirror the child’s development through puberty and adulthood, but also preserve the conflicts (complexes) that a child experiences during those years. “As the child was once under a compulsion to obey its parents, so the ego submits to the categorical imperative of its super-ego.”(Pg. 49). Freud goes on to remind us that,

“…the super-ego is always close to the id and can act as its representative vis-à-vis the ego. It reaches deep down into the and for that reason is farther from consciousness than the ego is.” (Pg. 49)

The above passages illustrate for us the dynamic nature of the psyche, namely that there are aspects of the super-ego and the id that are unknown to the ego; private conversations that take place behind the back of the ego. It is important to recall that Freud described that the ego itself is partially unconscious and unknown to itself.

In Caesar and Me we find conversations between Jonathan West and Caesar only taking place in
Jonathan’s room. The room is private and closed off from reality–a place where conversations take place between West, Caesar, and Susan. Whereas West’s conversations outside of the room are placating, superficial, and hurried, his conversations inside his room are deliberate, penetrating, and searching. West’s internal dialogue, the unconscious thoughts that express the demands of the id and super-ego, is authentic, whereas the conversations he has outside of the room (conscious conversations) are calculated performances, ego defenses against the demands of reality. We also note that Susan and Caesar have conversations unknown to Jonathan, illustrating the unconscious dynamics that Freud describes, between the super-ego and the id.

Jonathan has just settled his debt with his landlady using money that he swiped from the neighborhood delicatessen. Jonathan, Mrs. Cudahy, and Susan interact in the lobby of the boardinghouse. Mrs. Cudahy is supportive and encouraging to West while Susan berates him, “Will wonders never cease… Better count it again, Auntie, see if they’re real.” We find here the dynamic interaction of the ego, super-ego, and reality taking place in consciousness. The id is silent, only speaking unconsciously. It is not until we enter West’s room (the unconscious) that we find Caesar admonishing Jonathan:

West: A common thief. What a way to make a living.
Caesar: You couldn’t make it any other way.
West: What’s happened to me? A no-talent ventriloquist. Worse, a second-rate thief.
Caesar: Third-rate.
West: Starving to death. In the profession I know, paying the bills by robbing the neighborhood delicatessen.
Caesar: Well, that’s show biz.
West: I guess I wasn’t too bad considering it was my opening performance.
Caesar: Let me straighten you out before you start taking too many bows.
West: Oh Caesar, just let me alone, please.

Let’s first consider the dynamics of the conscious interaction between West and Mrs. Cudahy. West is always placating, polite, and superficial with Mrs. Cudahy. It is as if he is acting as one acts when one is in public. West is performing, meeting the demands of reality by obsequiously capitulating to the social commandments of civilized society. His interaction with reality is consistently submissive and appeasing, as if to say, “pardon me for my impotence”. West is almost deaf to Mrs. Cudahy’s praise. Freud tells us,

“There are certain people who behave in a quite peculiar fashion during the work of analysis. When one speaks hopefully to them or expresses satisfaction with the progress of the treatment, they show signs of discontent and their condition invariably becomes worse… One becomes convinced, not only that such people cannot endure any praise or appreciation, but that they react inversely to the progress of the treatment… They exhibit what is known as a ‘negative therapeutic reaction’… We are accustomed to say that the need for illness has got the upper hand in them over the desire for recovery… In the end we come to see that we are dealing with what may be called a ‘moral’ factor, a sense of guilt, which is finding satisfaction in the illness and refuses to give up the punishment of suffering.” (Pg. 49)

Despite the fact that West is satisfying his debt, he is unable to accept praise from Mrs. Cudahy. Meanwhile, Susan is whipping him with for his sin, partly in consciousness and unconscious, she knows the true origin of West’s payment, and she won’t allow him to forget it. Susan is West’s conscience seeping through into consciousness. It is clear that West is suffering from guilt. Freud tells us how this unconscious guilt functions:

“An interpretation of the normal, conscious sense of guilt (conscience) presents no difficulties; it is based on the tension between the ego and the ego ideal and is the expression of a condemnation of the ego by its critical agency. The feelings of inferiority so well known in neurotics are presumably not far removed from it… In melancholia the impression is that the super-ego has obtained a hold upon consciousness is even stronger. But here the ego ventures no objection; it admits its guilt and submits to the punishment… in melancholia the object to which the super-ego’s wrath applies had been taken into the ego through identification.” (Pg. 52)

We find here why West must not take compliments from Mrs. Cudahy, for he feels he deserves punishment for his guilt. This underlying guilt is latent and pervades West’s entire character. The guilt is not merely over the petty crime of robbery; it is a much deeper guilt that, in fact, the guilt drives West to commit crimes. Freud tells us,

“It was a surprise to find that an increase in this Ucs. sense of guilt can turn people into criminals. But it is undoubtedly the fact. In many criminals, especially youthful ones, it is possible to detect a very powerful sense of guilt which existed before the crime, and is therefore not its result but its motive. It is as if it was a relief to be able to fasten unconscious sense of guilt on to something real and immediate.” (Pg. 53)

What Freud proposes is that underlying both depression (melancholia) and neurotic obsessions (Obsessive-Compulsions) is unconscious guilt. The former resulting symptom is self-reproachment, while the latter is pleading and forestalling. Each, Freud surmises, is incited by an unconscious intrusion of the death-drive. In other words, depression and obsession are both unique expressions of the ego’s defense against the unconscious desire to return to the inorganic–to die. Freud warns, “The more a man controls his aggressiveness, the more intense becomes the ego ideal’s inclination to aggressiveness against his ego.” In other words, repressed aggression results in self-admonishment, illustrated clearly in the relationship between Susan and West.

What is it that Jonathan fears? Freud tells us, “The superior being, which turned into the ego ideal, once threatened castration and this dread of castration is probably the nucleus round which the subsequent fear of conscience has gathered; it is this dread that persists as the fear of conscience.” (Pg. 60) What we find here is that we are driven not by guilt or conscience, but rather, to the unconscious fear of what conscience threatens to do to us. At a primal level it is castration, the symbolic annihilation of the self.

In the final scene of Caesar and Me we find the collapse of the dynamic structure of the self. The boundary between conscious and unconscious is breached as the unconscious is penetrated by the external world (reality). Two police officers enter the room and witness the breakdown of Jonathan West. An anonymous phone call has lead the police to Jonathan as a suspect in a crime. Of course this anonymous call was from Susan, illustrating how the super-ego betrays the ego as symptoms, which, although anonymous by nature, can be seen by others. In response to Jonathan’s monologue of confession, begging, and acceptance, Caesar is silent. The intrusion of reality marks the collapse of the ego defenses and the dynamic self. What remains is an unconscious which is vacant of the ego; a Jonathan West his has been reduced to id and super-ego, without conscious expression.

Phenomenology: The Other Psychology

In 1815 A German astronomer named Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel came across the curious story of an assistant researcher at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England. He found that in 1795 David Kinnebrook was relieved from his duties for sloppy data recording. It seems that the head researcher (Reverend Nevil Maskelyne) noticed a consistent half-second discrepancy between his and Kinnebrook’s recording of the “transits of stars”.
What Bessel found intriguing was that Kinnebrook was not the only researcher whose data recording was questioned. The more Bessel investigated, he found increasing evidence that there are distinct individual differences in our experience of the the world; a personal equation. This is the event that many scholars point to as the impetus for the development of a scientific psychology.
Gustav Fechner (1801-1887)
The predicament of the the personal equation challenged the Enlightenment certainty in the objective observation and measurement of the natural world; the project of the scientific revolution of the 16th century. A new field called psychophysics emerged to investigate how individual differences occur at the sensory level. In an attempt to understand the personal equation, researchers including Johannes Müller, Hermann von Helmholtz, Ernst Weber, and Gustav Fechner took up the task of examining how the sense organs function.
The culmination of the psychophysicists’ work was presented in Gustav Fechner’s 1860 text, Elements of Psychophysics. We find in Fechner’s book, some 7 years before Wilhelm Wundt’s first course on experimental psychology, much of what Wundt taught in that course. So great was Fechner’s influence on Wundt (Wundt gave the eulogy at Fechner’s funeral) that we find an almost seamless transition from Fechner’s psychophysics to Wundt’s experimental psychology.
Franz Brentano (1838-1917)
The physiologically oriented psychophysicists were not the only Germans investigating the sensory experience of the world. In 1874 a German-Italian named Franz Brentano published a book that challenged nearly every aspect of Wundt’s experimental psychology. In Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, Brentano argued that the experimental methods of the psychophysicists were of limited usefulness in the study of the human mind. He proposed that psychology should be based on qualitative observation, rather than on quantitative measurement. It is interesting to note that in his final work, the ten volume Völkerpsychologie of 1900-1920, Wundt himself described the limitations of a quantitative, experimental psychology.
Brentano’s influence on psychology is significant. At the University of Vienna, where he was professor of philosophy for 20 years, he taught students including Christian von Ehrenfels,  Edmund Husserl, Carl Stumpf, and Sigmund Freud. Freud was so taken by Brentano’s lectures that he enrolled in five of Brentano’s courses. Later Freud would regard Brentano as a “genius… a damned clever fellow”.
If we trace the lineage of the Gestalt psychologists and the existential phenomenological (humanistic) psychologists we arrive at Brentano. Carl Stumpf, one of Brentano’s best known students, was influential in the founding of Gestalt psychology. Stumpf’s students included Wolfgang Köhler, Kurt Koffka (two of the main founders of the Gestalt movement), and Kurt Lewin, one of the founders of social psychology.
What made Brentano’s psychology different from Wundt’s can be seen in the qualities of its descendants. Social, Gestalt, existential-phenomenology, and psychoanalytic psychologies are all based on meaning arising from the interaction between and individual and their world; it is the study not of the quantitative functions of the senses, but of the qualitative contextual experience.
For Brentano experience was an activity, not a structured contents of sensory elements, as Wundt and the psychophysicists held. Act psychology, as Brentano called it was interested in describing the act of experiencing a phenomenon; rather than dissecting consciousness into associations of sensations. 
This way of doing psychology is strikingly different from Wundt’s tradition of objective measurement. Brentano’s psychology is entirely descriptive and experienced from the first-person perspective, rather than the third-person, which is common to the the tradition of experimental psychology. This difference, the description from the first person, is not merely a grammatical variation–it is an act that calls into question the separation of the subject and the object; it eliminates the possibility of distinctly “subjective” and “objective” experience.
For Brentano, and the phenomenologists who followed, there is no distinction between subject and object, there is a dynamic interaction between a person and the world, from which experience emerges.
Phenomenology is descriptive psychology. For Brentano, as he discusses it in his text Descriptive Psychology, it is the description of experience from the first-person point of view. Edmund Husserl, who is often cited as the founder of the phenomenological method of research, built his theory upon Brentano’s writings on descriptive psychology, as well as those of Brentano’s student Carl Stumpf.
What made Brentano’s theory of mind different from the experimental psychologists can be seen in three concepts which Brentano attributes to mental phenomena. He claims that experience is: internal, experienced as a whole, and always intentionally directed. These three concepts place the focus of psychology not on the objective world, but on the internal world of the individual. Like Freud’s new science of psychoanalysis, the phenomenologists rejected the experimental approach of studying psychology. The focus of psychology should be on experience, not measurement. 
In his 1874 text Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint Brentano  describes intentionality:
“Every mental phenomenon is characterized by what the Scholastics of the Middle Ages called the intentional (or mental) inexistence of an object, and what we might call, though not wholly unambiguously, reference to a content, a direction toward an object (which is not to be understood here a meaning a thing), or immanent objectivity. Every mental phenomenon includes somthing as object within itself…”(Pg. 88)
This passage illustrates the issue that positivist, experimental psychologists took with Brentano’s descriptive psychology. To them, Brentano’s psychology was vague, unscientific, and lacking in the rigour of the psychophysical tradition.
*An excellent introduction to the work of Franz Brentano can be found at The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

How do we Study Personality? (Part 3)

Transcript
I’d like to begin our discussion of research by making the distinction that we alluded to in the second part of lecture 1. And that’s the distinction between qualitative and quantitative research. Understanding quantitative research as distinctly different from qualitative research, quantitative research can usually be identified by having a coefficient with it, a number. Quantifiable research has to do with counting, quantifying, to count. So anything that uses statistical measures, standardization, anything that has a numerical coefficient assigned to it is considered to be quantifiable research.
Qualitative research, on the other hand, is usually descriptive in nature. It’s usually not measured. It’s usually more of a description certainly as is evident in a case study or in observing a group or observing children and play behavior. That’s qualifiable behavior, qualitative research.
Sometimes qualitative research takes on the guise of quantitative research. An example of this would be the Likert scale. So when an individual self assesses the amount of pain they have on a scale of one to five. It looks as if it’s quantitative research. But it’s really a qualitative measure.
So we have to be careful when we’re analyzing research and we’re understanding research findings that sometimes assigning a number to something arbitrarily, such as happens in a Likert scale of pain description, is the guise of quantitative research, when it’s actually qualitative research. You’re just using a number to describe an individual’s interpretation of their level of pain or whatever it is that one is researching.
So we take a broad understanding of the difference between qualitative research and quantitative research. Regardless of the personality theory, assessment is a foundation in anything that a psychologist does, whether it’s a psychotherapist or psychoanalyst who is assessing a patient’s thoughts, their feelings, their emotions, their behavior against assessing these against some other theoretical model, or whether it is a research psychologist that is assessing the performance on a certain task as compared to a control group and their performance on a certain task, the assessment is made.
It could be an educational psychologist who is assessing the performance in an academic setting of a certain individual student against the standard of the other students. Whatever the theory or the application is, whether there’s educational psychology or research laboratory psychology or therapeutic psychology, assessment is an intricate and important part of what the psychologist does.
Two concepts that are central to any type of psychological testing, whether that be qualitative or quantitative testing, are the concepts of reliability and validity. Simply put, reliability means that the results that the assessment yields, whether it’s a psychometric test, which is yielding a quantitative result, or if it’s a qualitative projective tests, where it has to do with different theorists describing the behavior, the idea of reliability means that the results that come from that test are reliable. In other words, they are consistent.
If someone takes an IQ test, for example, and they receive the score of 100 on a Wednesday. They should receive a similar score within a week, two weeks, a month, or even a year after taking that test again. Reliable means that it’s yielding the same results consistently.
So this is the concept of a reliability. If you have an exam, psychometric examination for instance, that’s measuring personality. And you’re seeing great fluctuations from one day to the next, you have to call into question the reliability of that examination.
The other major concept in psychology and psychological assessment is validity. And validity means that the test is measuring what it claims to measure. For example, in IQ testing, if an individual is a non-English speaking test taker and the IQ test is presented in English, then that IQ test is not a validly assessing the individual’s IQ. It’s assessing their English reading skills or English comprehension skills.
So validity means is the test testing for what it’s claiming to test. So these two central concepts validity and reliability are very important to understand when assessing the assessment measures.
Contemporary personality research relies on five major research methods. And these five major research methods vary in either being quantitative or qualitative. And they range in reliability and validity.
But those five major methods are self report, or what we call objective inventories. And we’ll be exploring these in depth. These would have to do with answering as strongly agree or strongly disagree on a Likert scale. “I find this to be an accurate statement about myself” or an inaccurate statement. So these are objective inventories.
We also have projective techniques, which we are going to be exploring quite in depth, which are mostly in the psychoanalytic and psychodynamic theories. An example of the projective technique would be the Rorschach inkblot or the TAT, the thematic apperception test. This would be looking for themes in an individual’s reaction to a stimulus. That’s a projective test.
We also have clinical interviews. This is the third major technique. And that’s where we do an in-depth interview of an individual one-on-one. It’s also called N equals 1 design. So it’s a clinical interview. This is what commonly happens between a therapist and patient. But it can also happen between a researcher and an interviewee.
The fourth major assessment tool is behavioral assessment procedures. And this is assessing someone’s behavior through observation.
And finally thought and experience sampling procedures. We’re going to be looking at this in depth as well. So these are the five major assessment tools that are used in personality research.
We’ll find that different theories lend themselves to different assessment techniques. For example, the self report or the objective inventories are mostly used in trait theory personality inventories. Whereas psychodynamic techniques based on the nature of the theory which deals with the unconscious, which is not observable nor measurable, relies mostly on projective techniques. So each theory will have an assessment technique that is most applicable to that particular theory.
Now, ideally when psychologist is doing research on personality, they would use a multi-perspective assessment approach. So in other words, using more than just one of these particular tools. However, that’s not the case typically.
Usually, we have one tool that’s used exclusively in research. But it’s important to realize that we can use multiple tools in assessing research. The problem is that using different tools typically means that you’re coming from different theoretical backgrounds. And that runs into it to trouble when you’re trying to make a bigger picture of personality theories using theoretical models that are not complementary. So typically we find that the tools that one uses, the assessment tools that one uses, is usually dictated by the theory in which they embrace, the school of thought from which they’re coming from.
So there’s a link in the assignment section that I put to qualitative methods. Dr. George Boeree created a great workbook that explores qualitative research methods and gives a nice introduction to those methods. And I encourage you to take a look at those and read about them. He goes farther into depth with qualitative research methods than the readings that we have on quantitative measures. So that is the links below on qualitative research methods in personality psychology.
Let’s take a look now in depth on self report personality tests. Self report inventories typically exist in a forced answer, yes or no, agree disagree, or maybe a Likert scale of agree to strongly disagree on the scale of, say, one to five. And the individual is asked specific questions that they then answer. And the way they answer are standardized against a group of a population.
Maybe the most famous personality inventory that is used is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, known as the MMPI. It was first published in 1943. And it was standardized against a group of Minnesota men. It consisted of 567 questions or statements that one either answers as true or false pertaining to themselves. It’s now in its second revision known as the MMPI-2.
And it was originally devised assessment tool for psychopathology to diagnose with the DSM disorders. But the items cover things from physical and psychological health to political attitudes, social attitudes, level of education, occupational, family, and marital factors. It looks for neuroses and psychotic behavior and thinking. It’s a really broad ranging diagnosis and assessment tool. And again, it was a originally constructed to be used as a diagnosis tool in conjunction with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM.
Let’s take a sample of some of the statements that one would answer either true or false to. “At times I get strong cramps in my intestines.” “I’m often very tense on the job.” “sometimes there’s a feeling like something is pressing in on my head.” “i wish I could do over some of the things I have done.” “I used to like to do the dances in gym class.”
“It distresses me that people have the wrong ideas about me.” The things that run through my head sometimes are horrible.” “There are those out there who want to get me.” “Sometimes I think so fast I can’t keep up.” Or “I give up too easily when discussing things with others.”
These are samples of the statements that one word answer either true or false to in whether or not they feel that they apply to them individually. Now there’s a subtest of this, a version of this test, just for adolescents, MMPI-A. And it’s a personality test that was standardized for the use of adolescence. And that was done in 1992. And that version of the exam has fewer questions. And the questions are specifically oriented towards adolescence.
Again, this test it was originally designed for diagnosis. But is today used also as an inventory for personality structures when doing research on, say, political attitudes and beliefs and behaviors, or social attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. It’s used as a tool within research that goes beyond the diagnosis of mental illness.
Another example of a self report personality test is one you might be more familiar with if you’ve applied to a job. So if you have applied to a job at a major change, often you will sit down and take a test– it’s actually personality test– as part of the screening for employment. And you may have 200 or more questions that you answer as either agree or disagree, or on a Likert scales one to five, strongly agree versus strongly disagree.
And this is a personality assessment. And they’re looking for certain traits or certain ways that ideal candidates for position answer certain questions. So that would be another example of a use of a self report personality test.
Now, there are some criticisms of these self report tests. For example, it was found that when individuals are given a forced answer test, they will answer differently to an identical question or statement than if they were allowed to answer in their own words. For example, when asked if children should be able to think for themselves, individuals who that statement was given as an option, 61.5% of individuals answered that way. But when given an option to answer however they’d like only, 4.6% of individuals answered with the answer of being able to think for themselves. So it’s forcing someone to answer in a particular way, which is seen as a fault in the assessment method.
Another criticism of the self report method is that if an individual is using this method, this research tool, to apply for a job, they’re probably going to answer in a way that makes them look as good as possible. So not answering honestly, but answering in a way to, what is called, fake good, to look good. And this could lead to inaccurate information. This is another criticism.
What is the pro for this self-assessment test? Well, the thing that it does do well is that it is objective. It’s quantitative. It gives you an exact score that you can measure and compare with other individuals who take the exam. So it gives the appearance of being very, as we say, objective or not subjective, not filtered through the opinion of someone, but equally scored amongst all who take it and in an objective or equal way, non-biased way.
Again, this is in itself objectivity. It’s a very controversial topic in the field of philosophy of science and philosophy of psychology. But that is to one of the strengths of self report objective tests is that you have a number. And all individuals receive a score that can then be compared and analyzed using statistical methods. And that’s what makes the test so appealing to researchers, scientifically minded researchers, that is.
Whereas the self-assessment tests used to be administered as a paper and pencil exam. Today there are typically administered as an online exam. And there’s some great benefits to this for research.
It’s less time consuming for the applicant to do this, to just go online and access it and click the Likert scale or the yes/no choice. It’s also easier to score and to compile the data for the researcher. It’s less expensive. The scoring is more objective because there’s no scorer error that used to take place when hand scoring these examinations.
The method is accepted by younger members and by individuals who are familiar with technology. They’re able to go online and take the test from their home. They don’t have to go to a research lab or to an employment center or wherever.
And it also prevents test takers from looking ahead at questions in preparing for this. The tests are usually administered not unlike an online exam for a college that you might take for a class, where you get one item at a time, and you can’t look ahead and consider your answer, and then go back and answer other questions. So there’s a lot of more control in the administration, grading, and storing data by using an online test administration.
Typically, self report inventories have the highest validity and reliability ratings of all of the personality research methods that we’ll be studying. Let’s contrast the quantitative psychometric technique of self-assessment, self report personality tests, rather, with the projective techniques.
Now, to really understand the projective technique is going to require that we first discuss Freud theory, which will occur in a future lecture. But what I would like to introduce you to this concept of projective tests is that in psychoanalytic theory, the subjective is more important than the objective. If a self report inventory is measuring the personality objectively, then the projective tests is measuring the subjective response of an individual.
And that subjective response is– and this is difficult to quite get your hands around without understanding the theory more in depth. But a projective test is accessing the unconscious. These are the unobservable and unmeasurable areas of the human psyche.
So for instance, just as a film projector projects an image onto a screen, an individual projects their own subjective inner emotional life onto anything they look at. This could be given as an example of two individuals going to see the same film. We’ll see two different films. One person will leave the film saying, my goodness, what an inspiring film, it made me feel so wonderful. And the other person we’ll find the film upsetting and never want to see it again.
We know in life that it’s not the stimulus that determines reaction, it’s the organism subjective response to the stimulus. This is the whole foundation of cognitive psychology incidentally. Beyond stimulus and response and finding that there’s stimulus organism response. There’s something that comes between the us and the stimulus.
So in a projective test, just as an individual would watch a film and give their subjective interpretation of that film, or someone looks at a work of art and gives their subjective response to that work of art, the psychoanalysts, the psychodynamic theorists say that this is accessing the unconscious attitudes of the individual that upon which their personality is built.
Now, when one looks at the most famous of the projective tests– that’s the Rorschach inkblot test. And this was developed by an artist Hermann Rorschach. And this was a game.
Rorschach was trained as artist as a young man, a painter. And one of the popular games at this time in Switzerland– he’s a Swiss theorist– was called klecksography or Blotto. And it’s a child’s game, where they gave their impressions of ink blots.
Well, Rorschach realized after having become physician and a psychoanalyst, he realized that this children’s game, this klecksography, could be used to access the unconscious attitudes of individuals. They would look at this random, symmetrical blot of ink and give their emotional reactions to this.
And Rorschach found that looking for themes, one was projecting their inner attitudes onto these ink blots. Now, this is very difficult to get. But maybe an example would helpful.
In training to administer and interpret ink blots, Rorschach inkblots, one notices immediately that they’re characteristic responses to each of the different ink blots that are presented. So in looking at the ink blots, some individuals will respond by explaining in great detail intricate aspects of the inkblot. Another individual might just give a general impression, such as big, scary.
Now, each of those responses in themselves tells a great deal about the person’s personality. We would not be surprised to find out that the individual who goes into great detail in describing the aspects of the inkblot might be in the profession of the sciences or an accountant or someone who tends to great detail. Whereas the individual who responds in general terms such as big, scary, or oh, my goodness, in a very emotional or affected response might be in a profession such as acting or something of this nature.
There are aspects of not only what the person answers but how the person answers to the Rorschach. An individual who looks at these 10 ink blots and gives common responses will often have typical characteristic responses in other aspects of their life. So what we see with the projective inkblots, the projective tests in general, is that an individual’s projecting their inner unconscious self onto the inkblot, not only in what they’re describing, but in how they’re describing.
Now, each of the 10 inkblot cards do have a standard responses. And these have been cataloged. And when one studies administration and interpretation of Rorschach responses, one will find that there are certain commonalities that exist, say, between individuals who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia tend to answer in certain ways that are common. Individuals who tend to go into different professions or different political attitudes tend to answer in characteristic ways.
So this is one way that we can see standardization and reliability. But there was a further attempt to make these more objective in the 1960s. And it’s called the Exner system.
And this is where the attempt has been made to actually give numerical scores to how someone answers in an effort to make it more of a quantitative approach. However, most psychoanalytic or psychodynamic theorists use a more interpretive or theoretical– looking for themes and responses, rather than numbered research. This was something that folks did for a while in an attempt to you to use these cards in a more quantifiable way, to make it more appealing for research funding, et cetera. But largely today they are used more as in a therapeutic and a research method, but looking for themes and not so much in quantitative scoring.
Today, all 10 of the original Rorschachs have been replicated. And the plates have been presented with all of their common assessment tools on Wikipedia. And this was very controversial when it occurred back in 2009. And so today– the copyright had run out– and so you can look at these Rorschachs and see all of the assessment– learn the assessment tools to studying them.
That was controversial that it appeared online on Wikipedia. However, the books were always available in the library. So the accessibility may have increased. But the information was always available to anyone who wanted to go to library to learn about this. So the real issue here is ease of access rather than access itself.
Now many psychologists of psychodynamic orientation realize that the inkblot had a certain intimidation to analysands or patients or research subjects. And people would often become very guarded in answering what they saw in an inkblot. The inkblot itself could induce a paranoia.
So Henry Murray developed something called the TAT, the thematic apperception test, based on, in fact, Wilhelm Wundt’s concept of apperception, how the mind voluntarily appercepts or organizes information into meaningful wholes. Wundt, incidentally, called this volunteerism and developed the term apperception.
So the TAT test, the thematic apperception test is a series of 20 ambiguous scenes. So these are cards that have ambiguous images. And the individual is asked to construct a story about what’s going on in the pictures.
So a TAT card it’s presented to the individual. And the person is asked to construct a story about the people and the objects in the picture, describing what led up to the situation, and describing the people in this situation, and what they’re thinking and feeling, and what the outcome is likely to be. And again, the analysand or the researcher or the therapist is looking to construct themes. They’re looking for themes that keep recurring in different cards.
Now, out of these 20 cards, 19 of them are images or scenes. One is a boy sitting with a violin. Another is an older woman and a younger woman standing one in front of the other. One of the cards is a completely blank card.
So the ideology here is, again, projection. The individual projects they’re inner unconscious attitudes, feelings, and thoughts onto the image itself. This Murray and his associate at Christiana Morgan developed this test in 1935.
It might be interesting to note that this projection, the concept of projection as developed by Sigmund Freud as we’ll learn, is one that is often used in film theory and also in psychoanalytic and psychodynamic media criticism, media studies, media psychology. Looking at a film, watching a movie, a television commercial, reading the book, visiting a website, interacting with an online video game, these are all projective tests. When we go to a gallery or a museum and we look at a piece of art, we are, in fact, projecting ourselves onto that work. And our response is not unlike responding to a Rorschach inkblot test or a thematic apperception test.

So when we describe or we discuss our attitudes about things, we are projecting and talking more about ourselves than about the thing that we think we’re talking about. So this is a summary of the quantitative and qualitative, major qualitative and quantitative methods of personality research. And what we are going to turn to in the next portion of this lecture is looking towards experimental methods of research and the clinical research and also a correlational studies in research. And that’ll be in part 4 of lecture 1.

How do we Study Personality? (Part 2)

Transcript
There’s been a tendency in research psychology to break things up into seemingly obvious dichotomies– in other words, a personality trait, such as introvert and extrovert. Yet when many of us experience our own lives and contemplate our own experiences, we often realize that describing ourselves as either an introvert or an extrovert is not always such an easy thing. In fact, we notice that a lot of it has to do with situations we’re in or periods of our lives.
So we make the first distinction in the studies of personality of doing away with or being cautious of false dichotomies. Whenever we see a yes or no, either/or option for studying an aspect of personality– in this case, in psychology in general– we become skeptical of this.
So for instance, a common example would be the nature/nurture question. This is really a question that is no longer discussed in the traditional sense of is it nature, or is it nurture? Is it genes, or is it environment? And we now embrace an interactionist model, understanding that it’s not so easy to distinguish between nature and nurture.
It’s not so easy to parse these things apart– that, in fact, maybe they are two aspects of the same thing, or two ways of looking at the same thing. So we’re going to take this approach in personality as we approach it. We’re going to avoid dichotomous thinking and instead think more in a third way, in an interactionist way.
Now, this is going to come into play as we discuss the big questions about human nature. Those big questions are, are we in charge of our lives? Free will versus determinism– because there are the two options, free will or determinism. What dominates us, our inherited nature or nurturing environment? So it’s the classic nature or nurture question.
And a third question that we’re going to be looking at for each of these theories is, are we dependent or independent of our past? In other words, are we determined by our past? Is human nature unique or universal? In other words, is there a basic human nature of good or bad at the core?
Our life goals– are we headed toward satisfaction or its growth? In other words, are we being human beings or human becomings? Are we something that we arrive at, or are we something that is ever changing? Another question that we look at is, are we ultimately optimistic or pessimistic in our theoretical world view?
So we look at these questions, these six questions, not as dichotomies but as an interactionist model. Now as it turns out, each of the individual theories that we’re going to study takes a stance on the six questions. And we are going to ask these six questions and describe each of the answers to these six questions through the eyes of each of those theories.
So we want to remember from the beginning that often, these dichotomies are false. They’re artificial parsing of the topic. And we are always going to be asking, what is the interaction? What is the third way that is a possibility? Is there a possibility of something other than nature or nurture, a new way of looking at the problem? So that’s one thing that we’re considering today I’d like you to think about regarding personality theory.
I think a role model in this approach is one of the theorists that we’re going to be studying in this course, and that’s Erich Fromm. And in 1964, Erich Fromm wrote a book called The Heart of Man, and in that book, he addressed each of these six questions and showed us how traditional thinking is unanswerable because we’re asking the wrong question.
So if you have an interest in exploring these in a very intimate way, take a look at that book by Erich Fromm. The link will be provided here in the assignment section– Eric Fromm, 1964, The Heart of Man.
Now let’s take a look at each of those individual questions more in depth. The theories of personality that we’ll be addressing in this course will each deal with six questions. In other words, there’s a certain worldview that each of these theories embraces, and we can describe that worldview through six questions.
These six questions are the question of free will versus determinism; the question of nature versus nurture; the question of being dependent or independent of our histories, of our pasts; the question of a unique or universal human nature; the question of whether we are growing or we are static, so a being versus a becoming; and the question of whether or not the theory itself takes an optimistic or a pessimistic view of the human condition. Let’s take a look at each of these questions and go into depth describing what they’re talking about.
The first dichotomous question that’s presented to us that we evaluate each theory using is the question of free will versus determinism. Simply put, free will means the ability to volitionally, autonomously, and spontaneously make decisions on how we act, how we think, how we feel. So this is the concept of free will.
In the theories that we are going to discuss, we see a broad range of some theorists who embrace the idea of free will, and we see many theories in which the theorist dismisses the concept of free will. Largely today in psychology, free will does not exist within the exception of the existential phenomenological psychologists, also known as the humanists. The reason for this is scientific method, the site science itself, which looks for lawful behavior, eliminates the possibility of free will.
So if you are an individual theorist who believes in choice and free will, then this is beyond the scope of a scientific endeavor, which is ultimately looking for lawful behavior. So to do psychology in a scientific way, one must be deterministic.
So we often see today a distinction between biological determinism and environmental determinism, which is whether or not biology determines how we think, feel, and act, or our social conditions determine how we think, feel, and act.
So in contemporary psychology, the dichotomy is still free will versus determinism, with free will being embraced by humanists and existential psychologists, and the scientific psychologists looking at determinism. And the debate in determinism is between biological determinism and environmental determinism.
Now, that should sound familiar because it’s the old debate of nature versus nurture. Biological determinism would be nature, and environmental determinism would be nurture, biological determinism meaning we are a product of our genes, environmental determinism meaning we are a product of our upbringing, our childhood, the way our parents approached us and parented us, our socioeconomic situations, all of these considerations.
So let’s take an example here. When we’re dealing in, say, psychopathology, we know that there’s a distinction between the medical model and the psychological model. And the medical model usually sees things such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, any of the mental disorders, as a product of a biological cause in the brain. So it could be genetic, or it could be a brain lesion or some sort of chemical disruptance, a tissue problem, a connection problem in neurons, or the nerve cell itself could be damaged or malfunctioning. This would be biological determinism.
The disease model is biological determinism. The idea that addictions, or depression, or anxiety as a disease is the assumption of biological determinism, and that is really described by the medical model.
The alternative view to this is the environmental model, which would claim that things such as addictions, and depression, and anxiety would have to do with how the individual grew up, the family members that raised them, how they learned to think about things, to react to things, to feel about things, how they learned how to behave. So this would be an environmental determinism.
Of course, free will would be the idea that there’s ultimately a choice in behavior– the behavior of the addict, for instance. It may feel as if it is controlled by an impulse in genetics or a learned habit, but in fact, it takes– for the free will thinker, it takes an act of volition, of autonomy, to choose to, say, buy the alcohol, open up the bottle, pour it into the glass, and to drink it. There’s a lot of volition involved here.
So we really see the nuanced nature of the nature– I’m sorry, of the free will/determinism question. And within that is embedded the nature or nurture question. We have phrased it here as biological versus environmental determinism, and you should be able to identify both terms, nature/nurture, as equal to the biological versus environmental determinism.
Regarding the nature/nurture issue, or the, as we call it, genetic versus environmental determinism issue, we should realize that today, most thinkers in this area take what is called the biopsychosocial model, which is not exclusively a biological determinism or a social determinism, but some sort of interaction between both biological and the social.
To a greater or lesser extent, individuals claim to reject the false dichotomy of biological versus environmental determinism and claim that there’s a certain interaction between environment and genes, or environment and biology.
We’ll see this as being the real crux, or the real foundation, of Sigmund Freud’s theory as being actually a tripartite interactionist theory that deals with biological drives, social pressures, and an individual’s ability to make choices. So Freud’s theory, as we’re going to see on that lecture in psychoanalysis, actually encompasses both biological determinism, environmental determinism, and free will.
The third main issue that each of these theorists can be evaluated upon is the idea of historical determinism. That’s the idea of how much are we dependent– is our to personality dependent on our past? Does the current event, the current situation, affect how we think, feel, and act more than our history does, our past does, our childhood, major experiences in our lives? So this is the concept of historical determinism, and it falls under the dichotomy of independence or dependence from our past.
You can see that that’s intimately related to environmental determinism, but we’re talking now more about an historic or a time-related determinism. In other words, do present, current circumstances affect our personality manifestations more than our past, our historical experiences?
Another dichotomy that we can evaluate the theorists upon is the difference between unique or universal personalities. So are there theories that can be applied to all people in all places at all times? Or must we evaluate each individual uniquely and on their own terms?
So this dichotomy is referred to as the unique or universal basis of human nature. Is there one universal human nature? Say, are all people at the core good? Or are all people at the core greedy or whatever descriptive word you would look for? Or must we look at individuals and unique situations? Can someone be, perhaps, altruistic in their human nature and another person be greedy in their core human nature? So that’s the issue of unique or universal aspects of human nature.
A fifth dimension on which we can evaluate each of the theorists is the idea of satisfaction versus growth, and this really has to do with motivation. Are we motivated, as the humanists or the extensional psychologists would say? Are we motivated towards self-actualization, towards becoming the ideal self? Or are we momentarily pushed and motivated to satisfy certain urges, certain sexual urges or– for moving from pleasure– or, I’m sorry, from unpleasure to pleasure, or from pain to the absence of pain?
So the idea here is looking at the idea of how an individual theory views our life goals, the motivation of life. Is it something that we are being pulled towards in a teleological way, trying to manifest our ultimate self? Or is it in a cause-and-effect relationship of satisfying an immediate sense of desire from unpleasure to pleasure?
Finally, we come to the description of either an optimistic or a pessimistic view of the theory. Does the individual theorist seem to feel that the ultimate nature of human beings is a pessimistic one or an optimistic one? For example, if individuals are inherently self-serving and seeking their own pleasure, this might be a pessimistic view– a theory that holds a pessimistic view.
Really, the question that we’re entering in here is a question of ethics, and for some of these theorists of personality, ethics is an intimate aspect of personality– morality. For other theorists, certainly the scientific trait theorists, questions on ethics and morality don’t really play into the description of personality. But certainly for psychoanalysts and the humanists, psychodynamic theorists, we’re going to see that morality and ethics are an important aspect of personality for some of these theorists.
Broadly speaking, I think we can distinguish between two main groups of theories that we’re going to investigate in this series of lectures. The first, I would say, is more of an ideographic approach, that is, an individual approach that studies individuals and describes them within a theoretical framework. This might even be seen as a deductive method, starting with a theory and then looking at individuals and how they fit into that theory.
We also have nomothetic research. And the nomothetic research is more statistically based, looking at groups of individuals. Trait theories are utilizing much more standardization and statistical measures of individuals.
So we have these two categories, one of a nomothetic nature, groups using statistics to understand maybe different personality traits that are dominant in different cultures and different time periods, and we have the ideographic approach, which is really looking at individuals one on one and how their personality– describing their personality, typically within a theoretical framework.
The ideographic method is typically used by the psychoanalytic and psychodynamic theorists as well as the humanists, whereas the nomothetic research is typically used in trait theory and some of the biological neuroscience theories looking at how cultures may differ based on percentages of individuals who score in certain levels on certain traits. So we have these two different broad methods, ideographic and nomothetic.
We’re also going to see in the next part of our lecture that different theories use different research methods. The nomothetic methods are– or nomothetic theories, rather, are typically using more empirically based research that includes questionnaires, and standardized testing, and the use of statistics, and statistical models, standardization, to understand how individuals compare to others.
We also have in the ideographic research and most of the psychodynamic theories and humanistic theories– we’re looking more at qualitative research. That’s description and not so much a coefficient or a numerical quantification, but a qualification, a quality-based research, a qualitative research of understanding things as they fit into theoretical systems.
And of course, the goal in all of this, typically, is to predict behavior and to, in some instances– to control behavior, and in other instances to modify behavior. And to certain degrees, each of these theories have that as its aim.
An exception to this would be the existential phenomenological theories, or the humanistic theories, as they’re called in North America, which are usually more interested in growth and achieving an individual potential more than controlling and predicting. It’s more of a personal growth type theory. But they can be used, of course, to prepare predictions, to control and to change behavior because ultimately, that’s what therapy is. Therapy is about change.
So these theories are very diverse, very nuanced, and we have now the basic considerations that we’re going to evaluate each of these theories on, the six basic evaluations that we’re going to look at.

Next, we’re going to move on to research methods in personality theory. So we’re going to look at qualitative and quantitative research methods, the dominant research methods that are used in each of the schools of thought that we’ll be investigating. Then we’ll talk about some of the strengths and weaknesses of those research methods, and that’ll be in part three of lecture one, theories of personality. Thanks for listening.